A new NCAA limit on the number of all-star basketball games a high school player can participate in was supposed to take some of the pressure off the players, but what it did was make the competition between the growing number of state and national all-star games even fiercer, says the director of Thursday's Capital Classic.
Billy Thompson, Wayman Tisdale and Benoit Benjamin, arguably the three best high school players in the country, were the most sought-after in the all-star sweepstakes. They all decided to pass up the Capital Classic at Capital Centre in favor of other games.
"All this competition among games is creating an atmosphere where everybody loses," said Clarence Turner, Thompson's coach at Camden High in New Jersey.
Brad Daugherty, a 6-foot-11 center from Swannanoa, N.C., was one of those hurt most by the sweepstakes atmosphere of the all-star game.
By deciding to go out of state to play in the Capital Classic and the East-West Classic in Chicago, Daugherty became a basketball outcast in his own state--at least as far as organizers of North Carolina's statewide all-star game were concerned. They said that if the 16-year-old played in any game other than theirs, he wouldn't be permitted to participate in the North Carolina game.
"To an extent, it's very unfair," Daugherty said. "They're forcing you to play in their game--or else."
Until last year, only all-star games held after a player's high school graduation had to be sanctioned by the NCAA. Then the NCAA decided to require all games--not just those in the summer--to meet its requirements for certification. Those requirements, which permit only all-star games involving players from a two-state area around the site of the game, automatically outlawed the Capital Classic, sponsored by McDonald's, and other "national" all-star games.
But the new rule didn't go into effect until after many of the games had been planned. The 9-year-old Capital Classic, along with the three other major all-star games--the McDonald's East-West Classic, the Dapper Dan Roundball Classic in Pittsburgh and the Kentucky Derby Classic in Louisville--obtained a waiver allowing it to continue, according to the NCAA.
Bob Geoghan, Capital Classic director, said he applied last fall for another exemption but was turned down. He then began lobbying to have the rule changed. At its convention in January, the NCAA voted to allow national all-star games, but limited the number of games a player may participate in to two. There had been no limit.
Under the new rule, players who appear in more than two games risk losing their first year of college eligibility.
The Capital Classic, which usually picks its 10-man U.S. squad in February from among the pool of 25 McDonald's all-Americas, had to settle for eight all-Americas. And David Wingate of Dunbar in Baltimore, who narrowly missed being named an all-America, first was picked for the Metro squad, then was moved to the U.S. team because his coach, Bob Wade, will be coaching the national all-stars. Rafael Adams, a 6-foot-6 forward from New Jersey, was added to the squad yesterday after Alphonso Johnson of Birmingham, Ala., withdrew.
"The two-game rule has created a lot more problems because kids are being pursued a lot more vigorously," said Geoghan, who said he plans to again ask the NCAA to change its rule so that the limit applies only to games during the school year.
State all-star committees often blackball a player by threatening to withhold his state award if he plays in anything other than the state all-star game, said Geoghan, adding, "I'm finding out that there is a lot of jealousy between these games and some people are putting an awful lot of pressure on the kids."
Thompson had been very interested in the Capital Classic, Geoghan said, but felt obligated to play in the Derby Classic because he will be going to the University of Louisville.
The 6-9 Tisdale, from Tulsa, who has narrowed his choice of schools to Georgetown, Oklahoma and Texas and will visit Georgetown next week, will play in the Dapper Dan and the Oklahoma state all-star games. Benjamin, a 7-footer from Carroll High in Monroe, La., who is considering Georgetown, will play in the Chicago game. He has not announced other postseason plans.